Section 7A track championship: Cromwell-Wright's Nic Johnson goes from good to great for the Cardinals

Cromwell-Wright senior Nic Johnson never had a chance to catch his breath early in the Section 7A Track and Field Championships on Thursday at Malosky Stadium.

Cromwell’s Nic Johnson and Duluth Marshall’s Jack Burt near the finish line of the 100-meter dash final at the Section 7A track meet at Malosky Stadium on Thursday. Johnson won with a time of 11.43; Burt was second at 11.63. Steve Kuchera /

Cromwell-Wright senior Nic Johnson never had a chance to catch his breath early in the Section 7A Track and Field Championships on Thursday at Malosky Stadium.

In the span of 15 minutes, he was either running or collecting his medals: a first in the 100 meters and seconds in the long jump and 800 relay. He later anchored the Cardinals' 400 relay to another first.

That's what you call a good meet.

"I've gotten better at running," Johnson said. "I wanted to come back this season and finish off my senior year strong. That was my goal, so it's great to see the hard working paying off."

Johnson knows the importance of playing multiple sports, especially in a small town, but basketball just wasn't his sport. He quit this winter to focus on weight lifting and preparing for the upcoming track season.


Johnson, who will play football at Minnesota State-Moorhead, came into the spring a chiseled 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds. He's capable of squatting 425 pounds.

"I'm not saying don't play basketball if you want to get faster, but I was able to do a lot of weightlifting," he said. "My legs are a lot stronger."

Johnson's top time in the 100 last year was 11.25 seconds. This year, it's 10.88, a school record he set at the Polar League meet two weeks ago. Those times are the difference between good, like he was last year, to great.

Johnson clocked an 11.43 on Thursday, with Duluth Marshall senior Jack Burt clocking an 11.62 for second. Those times won't wow anybody, but there was a strong headwind.

Despite the loss, Burt was all smiles afterward, giving two thumbs up to the crowd. He had just qualified for his fourth straight state meet. In his previous three, he earned eight medals, from places second to ninth.

Burt, who will walk on with the Wisconsin track team, came into the season aspiring for his first state title, but his enthusiasm was tempered in a hurry. Burt was hampered early in the season by a hamstring injury, and after he couldn't go for the Hamline Elite Meet, he had an ultrasound, and it turned out to be much worse than he thought. It was grade 2 hamstring tear.

"A month ago, I was told my season was over, so I'm just happy to be here," Burt said. "To be able to go back to the state one more time. It's exciting."

Burt figured he was at 85 percent. His 85 percent is better than just about everybody else as evidenced by his victory in the 200 later in the meet.


"It just takes time, that's the frustrating part," Burt said. "So the whole goal is to just buy some time here. I just want to prove to myself that I can run with the best of them again."

Burt is handling his injury the same way he has handled his career: with class.

"Nic is awesome," Burt said of finishing second to Johnson. "It's so cool to have great competition up here. When I was a freshman, there was hardly anybody, but then my sophomore year we had a state champion in Terrance (Wenzel) and another one in Dawsen (Cossalter) last year. So who knows? Maybe Nic will be next."

Record setters

Five Section 7A records were set Thursday:

Moose Lake-Willow River junior Danny Lilya established a pair of wheelchair records in the shot put (19 feet, 1.5 inches) and discus (36-11).

South Ridge senior Nick Carlson won the triple jump in 44-11.5, breaking the record of 44-9.5 set by Cotton's Kenny Schofield in 2008.

International Falls senior Emma Gilbert swept the girls throwing events, including a record shot put toss of 43-10.5, bettering her own mark of 43-5 set in 2016.


Mesabi East sophomore Ava Hill dominated the 800 in 2:15.42, topping the record 2:18.46 she set last year. Hill will won on Thursday by more than 10 seconds, with a half straightaway to spare.

Gilbert and Hill are defending state champions and will be the favorites at next weekend's state meet at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Among other top performers on Thursday was Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin freshman Geno Uhrbom, who swept the boys distance events.

The Esko boys continued their tradition of strong relays and got a victory from junior Sam Rengo in the 800 and senior Nolan Busch in the shot put in cruising to the boys team title.

Led by Hill, Mesabi East took the girls team title, with the Giants' strength on the track overcoming the Broncos' prowess in the field. Mesabi East finished in style, with the team of

freshmen Kiarra Moehlenbrock and Hannah Hannuksela, senior Hope Howell and Hill winning the meet-ending 1,600 relay by nearly 10 seconds.

"Hopefully we'll be bringing a bus to state," Hill said. "That was the goal."

  • Eveleth-Gilbert’s Deanna Kerzie and Two Harbors’ Ryan McIntyre were named the Section 7A girls co-coaches of the year, Crosby-Ironton’s Dallas Dietz was named the boys coach of the year and GNK’s John Peterson was named the assistant of the year.

Section 7A Championships
At Malosky Stadium
Thursday’s Results
State Qualifiers
(* denotes section record)
Teams 1. Esko, 92.5; 2. Ely, 68; 3. (tie) Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin and Deer River/Northland, 63; 5. Cromwell-Wright, 45; 6. Proctor, 39.5; 7. Duluth Marshall, 35; 8. Bigfork, 31; 9. South Ridge/Cherry/North Woods, 27; 10. International Falls, 25; 11. Barnum, 23.5; 12. Cook County and Virginia, 23; 14. Eveleth-Gilbert, 21; 15. Lakeview Christian Academy, 18; 16. Moose Lake-Willow River and Mesabi East, 17; 18. Crosby-Ironton, 13.5; 19. Two Harbors, 12; 20. Floodwood, 11; 21. Chisholm, 10; 22. McGregor, 9; 23. Carlton and Mountain Iron-Buhl, 8; 25. Silver Bay, 1.

Individuals 100 meters - 1. Nic Johnson, CW, 11.43 seconds; 2. Jack Burt, DM, 11.62; 200 - 1. Burt, DM, 23.44; 2. Garrett Schjenken, DRN, 23.45; 400 - 1. Schjenken, DRN, 49.93; 2. Isaiah Arntson, Esko, 51.62; 800 - 1. Sam Rengo, Esko, 2:02.90; 2. Conner Daudt, DRN, 2:03.20; 1,600 - 1. Geno Uhrbom, GNK, 4:32.84; 2. Wyatt Rauvola, Flood., 4:36.69; 3,200 - 1. Uhrbom, GNK, 10:01.77; 2. James Schwinghamer, Ely, 10:05.12; 110 hurdles - 1. Derek Wester, DRN, 16.55; 2. Jack Haussner, CC, 16.56; 300 hurdles - 1. Gavin Skelton, ME, 41.40; 2. Henry Dirks, Ely, 42.31; 400 relay - 1. Cromwell-Wright (Ben Hansen, Kannon Korpela, Cameron Cahoon, Nic Johnson), 44.47; 2. Esko (Jedd Anich, Aaron Moore, Anthony Severson, Ryan Pantsar), 45.01; 800 relay - 1. Esko (Anich, Pantsar, Moore, Severson), 1:33.84; 2. Cromwell-Wright (Hansen, Korpela, Cahoon, Johnson), 1:34.44; 1,600 relay - 1. Esko (Anich, Moore, Sam Rengo, Isaiah Arntson), 3:32.51; 2. Proctor (Brett Bower, John Werner, Carter Fuchs, Nolan Mehle), 3:38.78; 3,200 relay - 1. Esko Luke Bourgeault, Cameron Schultz, Rengo, Arntson), 8:20.30; high jump - 1. Dalton Cook, Big., 6-1; 2. Dylan DeChampeau, GNK, 6-1; pole vault - 1. Wyatt Amdahl, IF, 13-0; 2. Tate Olson, Esko, 12-6; long jump - 1. Nick Carlson, SR/C/NW, 21-.5; 2. Johnson, CW, 20-10; triple jump - 1. Carlson, SR/C/NW, 44-11.5*; 2. Jayden Swanson, Carl., 40-4; shot put wheelchair - 1. Danny Lilya, MLWR, 19-1.5*; shot put - 1. Nolan Busch, Esko, 48-.5; 2. Samuel Goodwin, Barn., 47-3.5; discus - 1. Goodwin, Barn., 147-10; 2. Bryce Kennedy, Virg., 128-5; discus wheelchair - 1. Lilya, MLWR, 36-11.

Teams 1. Mesabi East, 73.5; 2. International Falls, 57; 3. Crosby-Ironton, 54; 4. Two Harbors, 49; 5. Eveleth-Gilbert, 47.5; 6. Cromwell-Wright, 45; 7. Proctor, 40.5; 8. (tie) South Ridge/Cherry/North Woods and Duluth Marshall, 39; 10. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, 38.5; 11. Barnum, 34; 12. (tie) Ely and Bigfork, 32; 14. (tie) Virginia, Silver Bay and Esko, 27; 17. Moose Lake-Willow River, 15; 18. Deer River/Northland, 13; 19. Floodwood, 7; 20. Lakeview Christian Academy, 3; 21. Chisholm, 1.

Individuals 100 meters - 1. Reese Miletich, Barn, 13.44; 2. Anja Schoenberg, CW, 13.52; 200 - 1. Hope Howell, ME, 27.3; 2. Hope Schjenken, DRN, 27.6; 400 - 1. Kia Tower, Bigfork, 1:00.93; 2. Courtney Werner, Proctor, 1:01.21; 800 - 1. Ava Hill, ME, 2:15.42; 2. Lily Peterson, CI, 2:25.86; 1,600 - 1. Ashlee Siegle, DM, 5:23.78; 2. Bella Thomas, ME, 5:29.12; 3,200 - 1. Ryne Prigge, Ely, 11:57.72; 2. Sydney Binsfield, Proc, 12:03.30; 100 hurdles - 1. Alexxa DeQuevedo, SB, 16.99; 2. Dayelisa Davidson, GNK, 17.23; 300 hurdles - 1. Natalie Fultz, EG, 46.63; 2. DeQuevedo, 46.79; 400 relay - 1. South Ridge (Lily Hall, Mikayla Mellesmoen, Taylor Mejdrich, Sophie Lenz), 51.96; 2. Mesabi East (Elle Theel, Lexi Highland, Kora Forsline, Hannah Hannuksela), 52.64; 800 relay - 1. Mesabi East (Hannuksela, Liarra Moehlenbrock, Howell, Hill), 1:47.31; 2. Two Harbors (Elise Poe-Johnson, Viviane Mickelson, Mar Martinez-Gabas, Sami Szendrey), 1:52.32; 1,600 relay - 1. Mesabi East (Hannuksela, Moehlenbrock, Howell, Hill), 9:57.99; 2. Proctor (Ariel Carlson, Annika Voss, Kaley Towers, Werner), 4:18.12; 3,200 relay - 1. Two Harbors (Sydney Haugan, Marry Libby, Autumn Smith, Grace Swanson), 9:57.99; 2. Proctor (Morgan Binsfield, Voss, Jaime Haugen, Werner), 10:05.8; high jump - 1. Kathryn Ireland, CI, 5-2; 2. Madilyn Jankila, EG, 5-0; pole vault - 1. Davidson, 8-6; 2. Brooklyn Jones, CI, 8-0; long jump - 1. Shaily Hakamaki, CW, 36-10; 2. Brielle Kallberg, Ely, 16-9.5; triple jump - 1. S. Hakamaki, CW, 36-10; 2. Kylie Monson, CI, 35-0; shot put - 1. Emma Gilbert, IF, 43-10.5; 2. Taylor Busch, IF, 36-4.5; discus - 1. Gilbert, 116-10; 2. Alexis Bonneville, Barn, 115-9.


Related Topics: CROMWELLESKO
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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